The South Kensington Club
The Georgian townhouse in which the South Kensington Club is based has a history of impressive residents. It was here that figurative artist Francis Bacon lived and had his studio. It was also once home to Pineapple Dance Studios, and later Ronnie Wood’s notorious Harrington Club, which was frequented by the likes of Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Today, a flurry of international visitors, politicians, celebrities and ambitious millennials stroll through the doors to call on what is now South Kensington Club, a private members’ space that opened in 2015. Based on four key elements which the founders believe contribute to a successful lifestyle – health, business, community and culture – the club has been built as a stylish, health-conscious haven for London’s cosmopolitan crowd.
Inside, a colonial-inspired interior, envisioned by interior consultant and art director Sussy Cazalet, sets it apart from the Sloane-style typical of the area, with mid-century Brazilian Percival Lafer chairs and lifestyle photography by Slim Aarons. The immense Bathhouse offers techniques and treatments from across the globe – think Turkish hammam, Russian Banya and a Watsu pool. For gym bunnies, there is a state-of-the-art fitness room, as well as a schedule of more than 420 classes, including hot yoga, boxing and Pilates.
Owner: Private investor.
Why: a globe-trotting spa menu; state-of-the-art fitness facilities and the inspiring Entrepreneurs Programme – each month the South Kensington Club hosts monthly networking evenings by renowned self-starters, brand creators, designers and avid travellers.
Price: from £2,200 per annum for overseas members, £2,800 for under 30s and £3,500 for full membership.
Best for: the perfect balance of health and hedonism.
Alumni: David Beckham, Maria Sharapova, Donna Air, Jack fox, Ben Fogle, Liv Tyler.
Dress code: None; you're as welcome in gym gear as workwear or high fashion.
South Kensington Club, 38-42 Harrington Road, SW7 southkensingtonclub.com
Chelsea Arts Club
Chelsea Arts Club is a London institution with a party-hard past, established in 1891 by a group of local artists. Its now legendary Chelsea Arts Ball was banned in 1958 due to “rowdiness, nudity and public homosexuality.”
Today, Chelsea Arts Club remains a home-away-from-home with hedonistic flair. It shuns glitz and pomp in favour of relaxed discretion, imbued with a louche, laidback charm. The club is recognisable by its long white façade, which is regularly repainted to reflect the theme of an exhibition or event. Inside, it feels like the rackety home of an eccentric artist, while it has also been compared to a family-run country house in rural Ireland. There is a dining room for 100, hung with oil paintings; a large bar with a snooker table; verdant garden and 12 bedrooms for members to book.
Why: A rotating collection of eclectic art, often better than any gallery in London.
Price: £623 per annum; £228 for under 30s; new applicants must be sponsored by two existing members, whom they have known for at least two years.
Best for: Artists, filmmakers, photographers, architects, poets and creative mavericks.
Alumni: James Whistler, John Sargent, Augustus John, David Hockney, Maggi Hambling, Lucinda Chambers.
Dress code: None.
143 Old Church St, Chelsea, London SW3 6EB chelseaartsclub.com
The Sloane Club
The Sloane Club started life in 1922 as the Service Women's' Club, founded by Princess Helena for female officers of the Armed Forces during World War II. It then became the Helena Club for ladies in the early 1960s before admitting men in 1976 and rebranding as The Sloane Club.
Today, this venerable stalwart remains a smart and prestigious home-away-from-home for London's well-heeled set, with 18 private apartments, a smart restaurant and luxury spa. From the service to the décor, everything is deferential and traditionally British, while oil paintings of illustrious women hang on the walls as an ode to the club's females-first past.
Founders: Princess Helena, 5th child of Queen Victoria and Albert, and her ladies in waiting.
Why: Quintessentially English, dog-friendly digs in the heart of Chelsea, plus spoiling treatments in The Sloane Club Spa.
Price: Joining fee £500; subs from £400 and £1000 per annum thereafter.
Best for: English gentry and their dogs.
Dress Code: Smart casual; ripped denim and sportswear not allowed.
52 Lower Sloane Street, Chelsea, London SW1W 8BS, sloaneclub.co.uk
Albert's at Beaufort House
Albert’s relocated in 2018 from Brompton Road to Beaufort House on Chelsea’s King’s Road. This four-storey space feels very much like a plush private residence, hung with contemporary artwork. The wallpapered bathrooms are a particular favourite, complemented by a chic champagne bar on the top floor. Revellers will relish Albert’s eclectic line-up of late-night DJs and events, where discretion is paired with devil-may-care decadence.
Founders: Simon Oldham, Louis Hysa.
Why: round-the-clock curated events, from morning yoga to late-night revelry.
Price: from £650, with a £250 joining fee.
Best for: a younger, well-heeled crowd.
Dress code: Smart.
354 King's Road, Chelsea, London SW3 5UZ, beauforthousechelsea.co.uk